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The need to play hi-hat patterns with two hands stems from songs where it’s prohibitive to play them with only one hand, due to the fast tempos they are performed at. In this free video drum lesson, Jared Falk takes you through the ins and outs of playing two-handed hi-hat drum beats. He shows you how to get started, shares some important tips on how to play these grooves without hurting yourself, and teaches ten drum beats you can use to start practicing this concept.
The following exercises are all played with a 16th note single stroke roll broken up between the hi-hat and the snare drum. Thus, practicing these drum beats will help you develop your hand technique, especially your ability to play single stroke rolls. Before going through this free drum lesson, be sure to check the free drum lesson “How To Count 16th Notes“. Having a good understanding of 16th notes will help you master this lesson’s content a lot faster.
If you want to delve further into this style of pattern, it’s important that you listen to some of the great drummers that have made this such a popular concept. Ian Paice created one of the most popular examples of two-handed hi-hat drum beats in the intro section for the song “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. You can find other examples of two-handed hi-hat drum beats in popular songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by the band U2, with Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums; “Run to the Hills” by the band Iron Maiden, with Cliff Burr on drums; “Everlong” by the band Foo Fighters, with Dave Grohl as the drummer; “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson, with John “JR” Robinson as the drummer; “Whip It” by Devo and “Good Times” by Chic, with Alan Myers and Tony Thompson on drums, respectively.
Drummers: Ian Paice (Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Gary Moore Band), Larry Mullen Jr. (U2), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures), John “JR” Robinson (Michael Jackson, Michael Buble, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Madonna, Seal), Cliff Burr (Iron Maiden, Trust, Desperado, Elixir), Alan Myers (Devo, Jean Paul Yamamoto, Skyline Electric), Tony Thompson (Chic, Power Station).
Exercise #1 is a 16th note single stroke roll that’s played exclusively on the hi-hat. This exercise has the purpose of getting you used to playing a consistent sounding single stroke roll on the surface of the hi-hat. This is important because the hi-hat feels quite different from a practice pad or a snare drum. Focus on performing evenly spaced and consistent sounding strokes.
With exercise #2, the 16th note single stroke roll is played between the snare drum and the hi-hat. This exercise is designed to have you practicing the transitions between the hi-hat and the snare drum. Remember that even though one of your hands comes down to the snare drum to play shots on counts 2 and 4, it’s important to keep the strokes evenly spaced.
Keep in mind that if you’re leading these ten drum beats with your left hand – while having the hi-hat on the left side of your body – you’ll have to be very careful not to injure yourself, since you’ll have to move your right arm out of the way of your left hand, as it moves towards the snare drum on counts 2 and 4.
Exercise #3 adds the bass drum to counts 1 and 3 of exercise #2. Make sure you play unison strokes between your leading hand and your leading foot on those counts. If you have to, practice this exercise at a very slow tempo, so you’re sure you’re not playing flams between hand and foot.
Exercise #4 is a small variation of exercise #3. This groove will further challenge your independence. To the bass drum strokes of the previous drum beat, we add two more to the “ah” of counts 1 and 3. Avoid flamming the unison figures. Practice very slowly at first, and make sure you learn the stroke sequence without a metronome first. Add the metronome in when you have the pattern under control.
Exercise #5 further challenges your bass drum independence. Just like with the previous drum beats, the bass drum is played on counts 1 and 3. What’s new here are the bass drum strokes on the “and” of counts 1 and 3, and on the “ah” of count 3. This means you’ll be playing a double stroke on count 3. This increases the challenge of playing unison figures between the hands and bass drum foot. As you get to higher speeds, it will become increasingly harder to play a fast and consistent sounding double stroke. To help you out with this, we encourage you to learn how to play the slide technique or how to play the heel-toe technique.
Now that you’ve freed you bass drum foot with the previous drum beats, it’s time to work on snare drum independence. This is where exercise #6 comes in. Since this drum beat has a harder hand pattern for you to play, the bass drum pattern is simpler. In addition to the snare shots of counts 2 and 4, there are two new ones on the “ah” of those counts. These strokes are played with the non-leading hand. Since you’re not used to this, you may find yourself struggling a bit. To work around this, learn the stroke sequence at a slow tempo.
The snare pattern of exercise #7 is based on the snare pattern of a very popular 8th note drum beat. This drum beat is also a mixture of exercises you have already learned how to play with this free drum lesson. Count 1 is the same as count 1 of exercise #4. Count 2 has the hi-hat/snare drum combination of exercise #6, and count 4 is a pattern that can actually be found throughout the various exercises from this lesson. You can keep your non-leading hand on the snare drum once you’ve played the “ah” of count 2. This will make it a lot easier for you to play the snare shot on the “e” of the following count.
Exercise #8 is a very cool sounding one. For the first time in this free drum lesson, you’ll not be playing the snare drum on count 2. Instead, that snare shot is moved to the “ah” of count 1. Since you’re used to playing the snare drum on count 2, it may take a little while to get used to playing it a 16th note earlier. So take your time with this two-handed hi-hat drum beat and be sure to practice it slowly.
The 9th two-handed hi-hat drum beat can bring about some issues between the consecutive snare shots and the syncopated bass drum pattern. Learn the sequence very slowly at first, just to make sure your progress doesn’t get hindered by advancing too fast and too soon. As with exercise #5, the higher the speed, the harder it will be to play the bass drum double stroke between counts 2 and 3. To help you out with this, we encourage you to learn how to play the slide technique or how to play the heel-toe technique.
Exercise #10 is a very cool sounding one. The bass drum is played on all quarter notes while the hands keep a 16th note single stroke roll going between the hats and the snare. The cool thing here is that the snare pattern is actually based on the 2:3 bossa nova clave. This comes to show how learning new styles of drumming can have a positive influence over your creativity within rock music.
Once you’re done with this free drum lesson, we encourage you to keep exploring new avenues with your drumming by going through the free drum lesson “Half-Time Drum Beats“. If you’d like to try something a little more challenging, we encourage you to learn how to play in an odd-time signature. Check the free drum lesson “How To Count 5/4 Odd-Time” to get started.
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